I’ve never been in the Subway Inn in either of its locations, but that’s OK, I’m really here to mention its red neon sign, which survived its transplant. For eight decades the Subway Inn held forth at 143 East 60th Street at 3rd Avenue, right outside a subway entrance leading to the 4, 5, 6 and N, R and W subway lines. The old place was aptly named. However, in 2015, it lost its lease, as its building was sold and a high-rise was due to rise in its place. However, in a fortuitous occurrence, the Salinas family that owns Subway Inn found a prime locale just a block away at the corner of 2nd Avenue and East 60th, in the shadow of the Roosevelt Island tramway.
Since the neon sign was preserved and remounted, there’s not much chance of renaming it the “Tram Inn.” My favorite bar neon sign was on the P&G Cafe on Amsterdam and West 73rd (seen on FNY’s Neon Nights page). It, too, lost its lease and was forced to move elsewhere, but it failed in its new location. But: it was unable to transport its classic neon sign with it. That may account for its lack of luck.
That’s not the only sad story. McHale’s, on 8th and West 46th, was also forced out. I was alerted to that fact when one day I was stumbling down West 24th and found the sign for sale at an antiques shop!
I’ll get into the Subway Inn one day. It’s mentioned in both editions of New York City’s Best Dive Bars, the first by Wendy Mitchell, the second by Ben Westhoff:
Mitchell: “Women are a [rare] sighting. As is anyone under 30. Maybe that’s why some of my heavy-drinking associates never want to come here. Even dive bar regulars Sara and Nik vowed never to return with me to this nasty haunt…”
Westhoff: “Located next to Bloomingdale’s in an area that draws bridge-and-tunnelers, tourists, locals and bums in equal measure, you’re likely to see a professor type wearing a bow tie, a trashy dude in a Git-R-Done ball cap and a group of overweight African-American women dancing to Michael Jackson, all in the same visit.”
(What’s a Git-R-Done ball cap?)
What do I want out of a NYC bar experience? The Old Town.
Last summer, I went into McFadden’s, the local joint at Citifield. The place was half full, but I couldn’t hear my friends talk because a nearby DJ was chattering and spinning vinyl. At an ear splitting level. At age 58 in 2016, I wasn’t apparently McFadden’s desired clientele. If anyone wants to discuss their favorite bar atmosphere and esthetics, I’m here at email@example.com.